By Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.
Have you ever started a project like planting a garden or even a whole crop? Or you might have installed a roof on your house? Or even something academic? A paper, a thesis or a dissertation? “Boy,” you think, “I’m doing a real bang-up job here.” Then the weeds appear in the garden. The roof might suggest that you were less than sober when installing it. Your thesis may have been too ambiguous and open to scrutiny. So what do you do? You ruthlessly weed out your garden. You set the roof right and you tighten up your thesis. This is exactly what the Gospel asks us NOT to do.
People see “weeds” in themselves and other weeds outside in the world. Either way, our compulsion is to take those weeds out of existence. Jesus asks us not to do that. In the Gospel, Jesus conveys that the weeding process is the work of “angels,” not ourselves. It is enough to have the insight to identify the weeds as such.
Recovering alcoholics and addicts do not attempt to weed out alcoholism and addiction. Instead, through 12 Steps, they embrace it as a disease. The key is not to give those kinds of weeds any fertilizer to grow any further. Another key in 12 Steps is to transform the disease so that a person suffering from addiction can recover from it. It is similar to taking manure and turning into fertilizer. So, Jesus asks us to take a chance and let those weeds exist. Instead of us burning the weeds, we transform them into something else. In Romans, we are asked to depend on the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide us in that transformation. God will provide other parties if the weeds need to be taken away.
Some of the “weeds” we see in the outside world may include people who are our rivals. Everyone has them. These rivals are not enemies. Rivals may share different positions or world views than yours. Two rivals may be opposites, but they acknowledge each other as legitimate. On the other hand, an enemy is an existential threat to both rivals, and lacks any legitimacy. We need our rivals, whom we may see as “weeds” because existential threats will come from within or outside and challenge our very existence. One should not fight enemies alone. Thus, rivals need each other because there is strength in numbers.
The way that an enemy starts to attack two rivals is to make them not just oppose, but hate each other. Now the two opponents see each other as enemies. This hatred weakens the overall body, and once weakened the real enemy invades and becomes the master of the two rivals. Wisdom asks us to depend upon God as the source of justice (weeding). Our sense of justice is incomplete and given to prejudice. Only God can see what is true. Therefore, the weeds that we identify as such can actually help us with the bigger existential threats ahead.
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Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S., is a hospital chaplain in Northwest Indiana. He is also the associate director of Companions (lay associates) of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood